Wow what a busy time!
For a country whose national motto is SAI HANKURI "have patience" things sure are moving at pretty breakneck pace. Aside from having a huge seed festival in my village at which 17 villages were agriculturally represented and about 500+folk shipped in while building my own monster of a tree nursery, along with other projects This week has kept me on the go practically from start to finish and farming season dauntingly stares at me merely two months away.
Sunday I hopped a bush taxi, nothing eventful, but Monday, Monday.
Monday my plan was to send my good friends Henry and Emily Mercier out of the Sahel in style and throw them a grand ole American style BBQ. So Monday morning I woke early, then at 'bout 0800 I was off to choose which meat off the dead cow carcass before the dark cloud of flies did.
The wonderful thing about Nigerien butchery is that all meat is considered meat. Here they recognize the tastier portions of flesh, but care not to differentiate by price, only how they chunk it up. So virtually a fillet, or T-Bone is the same price for the grisly portions that one makes hamburger from.
After visually dissecting the carcass I chose which portions I wanted and directed the butcher where to wield his blade. It was a beautiful sight; 4 kilogram's at 2 million cfa per kilo which came to a whopping grand total of 8,000 West African Francs (cfa).
The equivalent was less than 16 American dollars to pick my own meat and transport us all back to that familiar backyard paradise we all collectively remember way back in America.
After my market venture I returned home grinning ear eager to share my prize, a beautiful brisket and tenderloin, along with a couple bags full of freshly picked veggies from local farmers, all together to feed about 10 good folk the total price 12,000 cfa ($24 USD)
I dare to think of the price of that back in the states, but it didn't matter. I couldn't imagine seeing friends off like these without giving them something special to remember, not to mention those of us staying behind need from time to time a special kind of day that we forget about the rigors of our labors and take the time to enjoy each others company.
After all, for us in the Peace Corps this is a time of renewal, a time when all the new AG and NRM volunteers swear in as we veteran volunteers glee in the opportunity to either go to Niamey, stick to our villages and projects, OR come and enjoy an empty hostel.
Ultimately though most of us when together at these times we all take time to reflect on a years worth of service and be more than grateful that we are no longer them, and well on our way
What a day it turned to be, we got the party rolling by 1000 in the morn. By that time our guest came in from Zinder and we had an incredible day and one of the best gatherings that any of us could remember for quite some time. I also discovered that my soon to be departed friends were leaving to live in Maryland as Emily earned her PhD, and thankfully they would only be a couple of hours away from my potential new home in Charlottesville Virginia after the Peace Corps.
To me nothing seldom feels better than tracking my way down a river and dodging the obstacles as they come, I guess this correlates how I try to live, so it feels natural to take my bumps but really appreciate the beauty of each part of the journey especially when the river guides me kindly.
The beauty in this part of the story is how Hemily, ( as I call Henry and Emily collectively) reacted when I told them of my potential plans to move to VA, they assured me that my future home is a perfect for me, and they wouldn't be surprised if that upon my arrival the noble citizens of Charlottesville would be laying in wait (with banners) greeting the arrival of its new wayward son.
Apparently Charlottesville is an paradise thriving in bluegrass, agriculture, and not to mention a Purdy little bird building me a love nest back in the United States.
About this time, as I am wondering do I do real work here..sure. I did come to Maradi for a reason so I might as well reinforce the idea that we really are here doing work. It just doesn't always have to be hard.
So on Wednesday, after a much needed day of rest after the ville and he BBQ, our official work was to round up some volunteers village counterparts then we all would participate in a two day tree nurseryman's course at a wonderful organization based out of Australia/ New Zealand called SIM "Serving in Mission".
SIM has been fundamental in my project development for Dan Saga. A few examples would be the amazing opportunity to work so closely with some of the foremost experts in the world in relation to the Australian Acacia trees. They also will be coming to my village to talk with villagers and hold a village wide workshop demonstrating natural resource management, innovative farming designs, and making obscene amounts of nutritious food fortified with protein derived from the Acacia seeds.
So for the rest of the week up to today Friday, March 14, we attended nursery courses (all in Hausa) and without frustration we listened intently, understood, and participated. It was a wonderful opportunity to feel like a real international development agent, but more importantly a great opportunity to share ideas and experiences.
Yesterday after the course was finished my village guest and I walked to the bush taxi station and discussed our future nursery work and he was completely unable to hide his enthusiasm for this years upcoming work.
This friend, Mamman, is by far my closest Nigerien friend, he is the son the chief, lives in my concession, and is also most likely to be the next village chief.
At this point in my service I feel he is whom I need to make the greatest impression on and focus most of my project work towards. This year Mamman was going to work in Lagos, Nigeria until farming season but the chief told him he must stay behind and work with me.
Initially a little bummed at the prospect of not being able to make the bulk of his annual income abroad, his spirits lifted greatly when he learned that he and I would buy a bull together and that he would be the manager of the village nursery after the end of my service.
Mamman realizes that this is a wonderful opportunity for himself to learn something new, make some money for himself, but most importantly is for him to learn in which direction to take the village when he becomes the next village chief.
His father is the chief now and is a great man, one of the best I've ever had the pleasure to know.
I have learned that there are important men, and there are those who stand in the shadow of those for their own benefit. They deceive themselves, they might gain from exploitation and have influence, but important, or good men. They will never be.
It is my greatest aspirations that the villagers whom I chose to work closest with will be those great people.when it is Mamman's time to lead, I pray he will be such a man.
So all in all as you can see its busy here, the work is good, the life is getting better and better, and hot season hasn't been all that bad….yet…..(knock on wood for me please)
Okay so thanks for tuning in, turning on, and dropping out as Timothy Leary, one of America's former leading brilliant wackoo's often proclaimed. As always I hope this is good waste of your time.
p.s. I'm off to the bush for the next couple weeks and will be incredibly busy so don't expect to hear from me too much. But sometime around the 7th of April I will be in Niamey again for my mid service training, its hard to believe that I am that far into my service and then in a couple short months it will be my end of service conference.
It seems like yesterday I was back in the states without a clue but with a healthy reserve of optimism. Though I still don't have a clue, the optimism reserve is holding and I believe that my work here will mean something. Who knows by tomorrow it will feel like my time here has ended.
Take care guys.
I am actually sending this while being at my MID SERVICE TRAINING, what does that say for being busy.